August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month

By: Marianne Stuart

I have nursed all of my 8 children for a total of 12 years and counting. I am currently nursing Andrew who is 10 months old.  My mom nursed all of us, all 14 of us! Yes, I have 13 siblings.  I remember thinking I wanted to be like my mom when I had children.  She was so good with the babies and all I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a wife and mom. There wasn’t anything better in the world than a baby and it was obvious that nursing was a big part of mothering a baby.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommends that a baby be breastfed for 6 months. I have enjoyed my breastfeeding experiences and nursed for about 18 months to 2 years for most of my babies. I am not ashamed to say that I nursed my 7th child until he was 3. He would have continued for longer had I let him. I only quit because of outside pressure to do so and this time around I am feeling strong. (Click here for an article from InCultureParent entitled, “Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan.”)

Slow Down and Enjoy your Baby
Nursing makes you stop your busy life and sit and cuddle with your baby. There is only so much multi-tasking you can do while nursing a baby, believe me I have tried. I love that it forces me to get off my feet and give myself a break. We mothers do not have to be superwomen. No, we just need to be moms to our babies and nourishing them by breastfeeding is an amazing thing we can do for them. 

Now nursing isn’t always as romantic as I may be making it seem. The first month it can be downright painful to nurse. Making sure that your baby is latched on is so important in those first weeks. I know some moms that have ended up with bloody and cracked nipples but I was fortunate enough to not experience this. Engorgement in the first week or so is hard to avoid but you can take advantage and express a little of your overabundant milk and save it for your baby and a future date night with the one you love. (Click here to visit the LaLeche League website.)

If you don’t take enough time to nurse your baby on a regular basis you can get mastitis or a plugged milk duct. The times that I had this happen I could always see that I was trying to do too much and not sitting and nursing my baby.  Usually it was during a holiday season or if I was entertaining company that I ran into this problem.  The fix for this if caught early is to put your pajamas on and hunker down with your baby. Allow yourself to nap all you want and nurse on demand. If you let it go and end up with a fever and aches then it is time to call your doctor and a round of antibiotics might be in order along with the pjs and rest.

Awkward
There also is the awkwardness of nursing in front of other people. Why does it feel so weird?  I have a male friend who panics when he realizes that I am going to nurse my baby. He starts pacing and saying, “La, la, la.” We laugh about it but some people do react this way.  Breastfeeding is more natural than bottle feeding but it doesn’t always feel that way, especially in front of a stranger. I remind myself that nursing my baby is more important than the discomfort I am experiencing. One trick I find that works is to nurse my baby before he is beside himself.  A crying baby draws more attention to what is going on than a content one.

Reality of Life 
Another thing about breastfeeding is that it can be messy. I say to my husband that during my periods in life when I actually feel like a woman and have breasts the darn things leak. I remember like it was yesterday when I had my first baby, Emily, and I took lunch to my husband, Guy, at work.  I got two wet spots on my shirt and imagine where they were.  I wanted to go shopping and asked Guy if he thought anyone would know what the wet spots were from.  He said I could probably have gotten away with one wet spot but not two.  Last month on our vacation to Oshkosh, WI, I have only one picture of us together and I have, yes, a wet spot on my shirt!  You would think after nursing this many babies I would have my act together but I apparently don’t.

Nursing Essentials
There are few nursing essentials that I have found quite handy.  Buy a few good nursing bras. Invest in some nursing tank tops.  They allow you to keep your postpartum belly covered while nursing.  Also, there are nursing covers.  It looks much like a baby blanket but can be pulled over and you can peek at your baby without having to lift the blanket and in the beginning some babies have a hard time latching on without help.  Nursing pads come in the form of disposable and washable. I really dislike the disposable pads and invested in the cloth pads.  You can insert them into your bra or tank top to avoid those wet spots I mentioned earlier.

Relationship Between Mother and Baby
I am passionate about nursing.  In a baby’s world I don’t think there is anything more important.  Nursing isn’t just about nourishment, but also about a relationship that is developed between a mother and baby. Nursing isn’t just for infants either. A toddler in the middle of a tantrum or who has just taken a tumble can have the world made right again with a few moments of nursing.  I don’t know how long I will nurse Andrew for but neither us are thinking we will be quitting anytime soon.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Not quite sure how you feel about this issue. I wish you were a bit more clear. Ha Ha.

    Great information for those women that are not sure, are nervous, or are not encouraged to do it. I think that it was one of the greatest gifts God gave my children and me too. I felt like I was getting so much satisfaction and security from it. You can only imagine how your precious child must feel.

    I was one of the unfortunate ones that had difficulty with my last child. I was a breast feeding pro at the time. My youngest son has a very tiny mouth and he struggled to latch on. There was a lot of pain and blood but I tried to work through it. By the time he was 6 months old, 1/4 of my left nipple sloughed off. I had a nursing safe salve made by a pharmacist. It was a recipe that a doctor gave me. I had enormous pressure to stop nursing him from friends and family alike. Jacob and I worked through it. I wasn’t ready to stop and neither was he. He nursed just short of 18 months. Nipples heal. I was glad that I went with my instincts.

    Every mother needs to make the choice for what is best for them and their child. I feel like people should at least try it to see how they feel. You should not say you can’t unless you’ve tried. God made us lactating mothers for a reason. I don’t believe that people who don’t do it are less for not doing it. All mothers have their own situations and choices to make. Good mothers are made from many aspects of life.

    I do support looking into it and support breastfeeding if the mothers can do it. If anyone needs advice on making it work, I’m sure that Marianne and myself would love to help.

    Reply

  2. EXCELLENT! Great advice and well covered on this important issue.

    Reply

  3. Wow, Marianne, you did an excellent job of pointing out the pro and cons of nursing. While I did not nurse, I certainly can appreciate the value of doing so. You touched on a lot of topics which will be helpful to mothers to be and those current nursing.

    Reply

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